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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Gaps in the Identification of Child Race and Ethnicity in a Pediatric Emergency Department


Introduction: Race and ethnicity are social constructs that are associated with meaningful health inequities. To address health disparities, it is essential to have valid, reliable race and ethnicity data. We compared child race and ethnicity as identified by the parent with that reported in the electronic health record (EHR).

Methods: A convenience sample of parents of pediatric emergency department (PED) patients completed a tablet-based questionnaire (February-May 2021). Parents identified their child’s race and ethnicity from options within a single category. We used chi-square to compare concordance between child race and ethnicity reported by the parent with that recorded in the EHR.

Results: Of 219 approached parents, 206 (94%) completed questionnaires. Race and/or ethnicity were misidentified in the EHR for 56 children (27%). Misidentifications were most common among children whose parents identified them as multiracial (100% vs 15% of children identified as a single race, P < 0.001) or Hispanic (84% vs 17% of non-Hispanic children, P < 0.001), and children whose race and/or ethnicity differed from that of their parent (79% vs 18% of children with the same race and ethnicity as their parent, P < 0.001).

Conclusion: In this PED, misidentification of race and ethnicity was common. This study provides the basis for a multifaceted quality improvement effort at our institution. The quality of child race and ethnicity data in the emergency setting warrants further consideration across health equity efforts.

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